Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, NC, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books. His books are available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com
That he pointed the gun at me was not too surprising, to be honest. That he actually pulled the trigger was even less so, especially given the look on his face. And his aim was absolutely dead-on; I must give him that. He hit me center mass, even double-tapped.
One does not usually expect a grinning nine-year-old to be that proficient with a water gun. And, as I was at that moment both seated and unarmed, it’s not like I could have done much to stop it.
The assailant was one of my church kids, and the scene of the watery assault was the recent birthday party of another of my church kids. Dana and I get invited to a lot of the birthday parties of the kids in our youth group, and we always try to go.
“You realize, of course, there will be payback for this,” was my calm response.
And there will be, you may rest assured of that.
I suppose that some people might find it a bit odd that a kid would feel comfortable squirting his pastor with a water gun. But he is not an aberration; other kids quickly joined in. These same kids feel pretty comfortable coming up onto the platform to hug me and Dana each week, or to show us their loose teeth, or to tell me some “new” joke.
It has been this way for twenty-four years now, and I love it. I would like the children who hear me preach hard against sin each week to feel just as welcome around me as the children who heard Jesus preach hard against sin and yet felt welcome in His very important arms…
There is such a unique balance that people in positions of authority must be able to strike, be they teachers or preachers or police officers or parents or anyone else in authority. They must be able to be stern and authoritative, utterly unbending on the things that matter. They must “uphold the law,” whether it be the law of the land, the laws of grammar, the law of the home, or the law of the Lord. And yet they must also connect at the heart with the children with whom they interact. To fail to do so will breed inevitable resentment both against the instructor and the instruction.
I see this in home settings far too often. A parent or parents will often have all the right values and all the right expectations, and yet so fail to connect with their children that those children grow up to despise the truths they have been taught. Our parenting job is not done yet, Dana and I, and I know that I have no guarantees about the future in this. But thus far we have raised children who willingly listen to everything we have to say about right and wrong. And I know that this is because we also spend so much time laughing and cutting up with them, going places and doing things, connecting at the heart.
A child’s eventual attachment to the instruction will likely be just exactly as strong as his attachment to the instructor.
In John 15:15 Jesus told his remaining eleven disciples, “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”
He called them friends, and he meant it. He had spent nearly four years with them. And while some of that time had been spent in preaching and training and ministering, much of it had been spent simply walking and talking together, eating together, seeing the sights together. These men felt so comfortable around Jesus that in Matthew 24:1 they came to him just to show him the amazing sights of the temple. Little wonder, then, that for decades after he rose from the dead and ascended back into heaven these men continued to walk in his ways and teach his words to others, eventually suffering martyrdom for him rather than going back to their old comfortable lives.
Teach the truth, uphold “the law,” demand and expect right behavior. But especially with children, while always maintaining appropriate boundaries, be approachable. Always have a warm smile and a listening ear. Enter into the games, when invited. Have imaginary tea with that little princess who offers you the empty plastic cup. Sled down the street with the kids enjoying the snow. Become their favorite water gun target. Those are the moments that will make the stern “you are doing wrong and need to stop it” moments acceptable to them.
And now, if you will excuse me, I need to go drop a decent chunk of change on the biggest and best super-soaker money can buy.
Payback is coming.
Pastor Wagner can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and his books and audio downloads are available by clicking the “Store” link above.
Feature photo by Pastor Bo Wagner